2016 marks the 10th anniversary of the European Enterprise Promotion Awards (EEPA). In this new feature, we catch up with former EEPA honourees who’ve gone on to do great things since winning the award.
Tomi Alakoski, Me & MyCity
This week, Tomi Alakoski from the award-winning Me & MyCity  project at the Economic Information Office in Finland reflects on the impact of winning an EEPA three years on….
|Organisation||Me & MyCity, Economic Information Office|
|Award won||Promoting the Entrepreneurial Spirit|
It was a great honour to receive the award. It showed us that we’re doing important work in the field of entrepreneurship. We didn’t expect to win because Me & MyCity was a very new concept; it only started in 2010. On the other hand, we’d received very good feedback from our target groups and we also assumed that our concept was quite unique in Europe. It was the first time that a Finnish learning concept had got this far. Winning the award gave us the confidence that we can succeed in Finland as well as internationally.
How did winning the award immediately impact your work?
The impact of winning the award was very positive and very broad. We started to get more attention and enquiries from abroad, internationally. It also increased our visibility in Europe.
What response did you receive from your colleagues and peers?
At first, people didn’t really believe in our concept and they thought that it was the craziest idea ever! We felt that winning the award was a great reward for the people who had believed in us from the beginning. It gave us the feeling that if we just believe in ourselves, our work might just bear fruit. It gave us a massive boost and helped to make Me & MyCity what it is today. Our utopian idea began to seem possible.
What has been the long-term impact?
The trust in our work has strengthened even more. Two months after winning the EEPA, we attended the “World Innovation Summit for Education” competition in Qatar. We ended up winning the competition in 2014 for “the Best Learning Innovation in the World.” As a result, our cooperation network began expanding. Companies started to be interested in us even more. We also got to participate in official governmental events where Finnish innovations were celebrated. It also made a great difference to our growth. Currently, 70% of Finland’s 6th graders are benefitting from the Me & MyCity learning concept.
Why did you decide to enter the national competition?
We felt that entrepreneurial education in Finland wasn’t where it should be. We hoped that the value of entrepreneurial education might increase nationally if we entered the competition.
How did you go about preparing your application and making it award winning?
We wanted to be very honest and open in the preparation phase. We wanted to share our story and tell how influential our operations are. All in all, it was the operation itself that we wanted to highlight. When we started writing the application, it was the first time that we’d analysed how influential our operations are in so many ways. We felt it would be beneficial for our concept to be recognised internationally, that it could help the whole of Europe, which was in danger of increasing youth social exclusion and unemployment. From our perspective, it’s important to develop new enterprises and an entrepreneurial spirit in Europe.
What advice would you give to others thinking of entering?
Don’t apply for the competition only for the competition. Try to genuinely reflect what you’ve achieved and how it benefits your target group.